In 2012, West Virginia had 62 reported murders and 4,586 assaults, most of which produced physical evidence that had to be collected and examined in order for these crimes to be resolved. It is the responsibility of forensic laboratory scientists and crime scene investigators (CSI) to perform the duties that help solve these cases and bring those responsible to justice.
There are two forensic science crime labs in West Virginia, one of which is located in the city of Parkersburg. Although Parkersburg itself experiences about 288 crimes a year, the crime lab located here is also responsible for examining evidence for law enforcement agencies located throughout the state.
How to Become a Forensic Scientist or Crime Scene Investigator in Parkersburg
Education – Most CSI and forensic laboratory science positions within the Parkersburg Crime Lab require a degree in a field that closely relates to a forensic specialty.
The following are the most common degrees available through online and campus-based schools in the Parkersburg area:
- Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice – Forensic Science Concentration
- Bachelors Degree in Criminal Justice – Crime Scene Investigation Concentration
It is important to note that Forensic Science is the most popular degree choice for those seeking employment in Crime Scene Investigation.
Experience – One of the most stringent requirements is previous law enforcement experience. While it is not always necessary to have previous law enforcement or criminal investigative experience, it is definitely preferred and will give candidates more access to opportunities in a very competitive career field.
Certification – For many positions within the Parkersburg Crime Lab, certification is preferred. Certification can be obtained through the West Virginia State Police or through national organizations like the International Association of Identification and typically requires completion of training seminars and coursework.
Departments within the Parkersburg Crime Lab
The Parkersburg Crime Lab is separated into various departments, each of which is responsible for a very specific function within the forensic investigation process. These departments are as follows:
- Biology Section – Uses Biochemistry techniques to examine any biological material found at crime scenes
- Latent Fingerprinting – Collects fingerprints and runs them through national crime databases to find matches
- Drug Identification – Uses various methods in order to determine if illegal drugs were involved in a crime
- Central Evidence Receiving and Processing – This department focuses on labeling and organizing evidence before it is sent off to other departments to be analyzed
- Firearms and Tool Marks Section – Examines and identifies weapons and other tools that may have been used during a crime
- Questioned Documents Section – Examines physical documents (paperwork, checks, receipts, etc.) that may be involved with a crime
- Trace Evidence – This department uses a variety of methods in order to find fire traces, chemical traces, gunshot residue, tread mark identification and other highly technical areas of investigation.
- Toxicology – Examines blood samples in order to determine alcohol and drug content that may be related to a crime or a suspect in custody.